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Irish government urged to act on climate change and electricity

Wed 03 Oct 2018 by David Foxwell

Irish government urged to act on climate change and electricity
Reducing levelised costs to €60/MWh for onshore wind, €70/MWh for offshore wind and €80/MWh for solar would result in energy at no additional cost to consumers, Baringa claims

Organisations representing renewable energy in Ireland have called on Ireland’s minister for communications, climate action and environment Denis Naughten TD to set a target to supply 70% of electricity from renewables by 2030.

In June 2018 the European Union agreed that 32% of the EU’s energy – across electricity, heat and transport – will come from renewables by 2030. Ireland’s share of that target will be negotiated with the EU in the coming months.

A report from energy and utilities experts Baringa said it is technically possible and cost neutral to the consumer for Ireland to use renewable energy to supply 70% of electricity by 2030, which would go a long way towards reaching the EU target.

It follows confirmation from the Climate Change Advisory Council in July that Ireland will miss its overall 2020 target for renewable energy, warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency highlighting the failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and comes as the International Panel on Climate Change meets in South Korea.

In September the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action began meeting to respond to the calls from the Citizens’ Assembly earlier this year for Ireland to become a leader in tackling climate change.

Currently, approximately 30% of Irish electricity comes from renewables and while Ireland will fall short of its overall 2020 target it is expected to still reach its 40% electricity target.

Baringa’s analysis shows that the ‘renewable energy’ scenario it studied, while increasing end consumer costs in some areas, results in significant benefits and savings in others, compared with the fossil fuel scenario.

As a starting point for technology costs, Baringa used the WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff study published by the Department for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

This gives an average levelised cost of energy for onshore wind of around €80/MWh  (US$92/MWh) over the period of the study. The net result is a cost of just under €3Bn for end consumers over the period 2020-30.

However, Baringa’s analysis indicates that a reduction in these levelised costs to an average of €60/MWh for onshore wind, €70/MWh for offshore wind and €80/MWh for solar would result in delivering the renewable energy scenario at no additional cost to consumers versus the fossil fuel scenario.

To put these levelised costs in context, other European markets have already seen onshore wind delivered below €40/MWh with offshore wind and solar clearing at €65/MWh and €70/MWh respectively, in jurisdictions with similar resources to Ireland.

“With an efficient policy framework in place on the island of Ireland, the levelised costs required for a cost neutral renewable energy scenario are achievable over the timeframe of this study,” said Baringa. “If Ireland can match over the period 2020-2030 the renewable energy costs already achieved elsewhere in Europe, our analysis indicates that the renewable energy scenario could cost less for the end consumer than the fossil fuel scenario.”

Dr David Connolly, chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association said, “When Ireland’s renewable energy targets for 2030 are set we will be shaping our energy and climate action policies for a generation.

“The evidence from the Baringa report is clear. An electricity system using 70% renewable energy by 2030 is not only practical, it is – at a minimum – cost neutral for the consumer. With the right leadership we can be ambitious for Ireland’s energy future, for our role in the fight against climate change and show our determination to support the Paris Agreement. The renewable energy community is urging Minister Naughten to drive Irish energy policy, investment and jobs for the next decade by setting a 70% target for renewable electricity.”

Marine Renewables Industry Association chairperson Peter Coyle said “We welcome the challenging target set by the study for renewable sourced electricity. We envisage that floating wind and wave energy technologies can play an important part in achieving this goal.”

Recent research warned that international investment in Ireland’s offshore wind sector is in jeopardy without clarity on the necessary market rules and lower levels of risk. The findings were revealed in analysis commissioned by Cornwall Insight Ireland in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and leading international law firm Pinsent Masons.

A second round of auctions expected to be held under Ireland’s newly-announced Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is expected to be the primary focus of offshore wind developers. “For the Irish offshore wind sector, the likely opportunity could arise under the second or subsequent auctions,” Cornwall Insight’s head of Ireland, Conall Bolger told OWJ.

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